Qualities That Successful Sports Bettors Have in Common

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Bettors who have been able to remain profitable over a long period of time are few and far between. While they may have some particular instinct that has allowed them to be successful, as well as a good deal of luck, most winning sports gamblers have some common traits.

Make no mistake about it; there isn’t a formula out there that is going to guarantee consistent winning. However, there are some qualities that are shared by nearly everyone who can be considered a good sports gambler.

In this article, I’ll lay out four things all good sports bettors have in common.

They Don’t Bet Emotionally

Gambling plays with human emotions like few other things. The exact same can be said about sports. When you put them together, it’s easy to see why some people have a hard time removing emotion from their decision-making process when placing a bet on a sporting event.

It’s extremely difficult to remove emotion from the equation altogether, but it’s absolutely critical to bet with your head and not with your heart. Sportsbooks actually rely on bettors making emotional decisions, and they often rely on recency bias as a way to skew the lines in their favor.

Regardless of what you’re betting on, chances are, you have at least some feelings about a particular team or player that go beyond the numbers, data, or analytics. Perhaps a team has a player you consistently root for (or root against), or in the worst case of emotional betting, you bet on your favorite team.

NFL Cardinals vs Browns Play

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept in the context of betting on sports, recency bias is the phenomenon of placing too much emphasis on what happened in the previous game. For example, if the Bucks beat the Wizards by 25 points in Game 2 of a series, the oddsmakers might have the opening line with the Bucks as a huge favorite because they know people remember what happened the game before.

I don’t really have a foolproof strategy to avoid betting emotionally, but there is one method that helps: Try arguing against yourself before making a pick.

I know, I know, this can lead to the painful back-and-forth mental debate, but I promise it’s worth it. This will help you lay out all the facts that would support betting on either side, then choosing which one has more in the “pros” column.

At the end of the day, emotional sports betting is the enemy of reason. Regardless of what your rooting interests might be, you need to do everything in your power to evaluate impartially and rationally.

They Keep an Eye on Their Sports Betting Bankroll

Setting a bankroll is not exciting. Keeping a close eye on, and documenting, your cash flow can be tedious. With that being said, it’s this discipline and attention to detail that allows sports bettors to properly manage their money in a way that leads to long-term success.

Just like in business, when you’re regularly betting on sports, you need to know where you stand at all times in terms of your finances. This can help you understand when to increase or decrease risk, and it helps to provide an accurate picture of your performance overall.

Gambling, although it is fun and exciting, should be about winning money if you’re truly serious about it. The only way to do that is to pay as much attention to your cash situation as you do to the games themselves.

At the most basic level, you need to have a functioning bankroll. That means a set amount of money that you’ve put aside for the sole purpose of gambling.

NFL Stanley Cup Winners Tampa Bay Lightning

After you have that amount determined and set aside, the next step is to settle on a percentage range in which you’ll bet. For example, most experts say that it’s best to bet between 2% and 5% of your overall bankroll on a single play, but you can mess around with the numbers based on the total amount you have allotted.

The final step of effectively managing your money as a gambler is to create a tracking system that is easy to read at a glance and easy to update after your results have been finalized. It doesn’t necessarily have to be complicated, but it should be somewhat detailed.

The components of a good tracking sheet are: a section that shows which games you bet on and what bets you made, how much money you risked and how much you could win, whether or not you won or lost the bet, then a tracker for overall progress in terms of your bankroll.

The bottom line is, the more effort you put into keeping your cash flow updated, the better you’ll be in the long run. It can be annoying, but it’s essential to success.

They Aren’t Afraid to Lose Sports Bets

Nobody likes losing bets. However, it’s important to remember that not all wins and losses are created equal.

When was the last time you bet on a moneyline underdog that was more than +200? For most gamblers, this is a very infrequent occurrence. While the risk is certainly high when one team is significantly better, the payoff can, in many cases, be worth that risk.

The goal of betting on sports is not to win as many bets as possible, but rather to win as much money as possible. I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve seen inexperienced bettors sticking to heavy-favorite moneylines, only to have their bankroll derailed when an upset occurs.

Sports betting is all about finding value. That means doing things that the general public is afraid to do because the risk of losing is high. Simply put, there just isn’t a lot of value to be found when you’re always betting on favorites.

One example of this philosophy can be seen in pro baseball, where the most popular bets are moneyline plays instead of the traditional spread like in football or basketball. Historical data shows that if you bet on the underdog moneyline every single time, you would lose the majority of the bets but end up winning money.

I won’t go as far as to say that you should always blindly take the underdog moneyline bet, but if you’re never taking it, that should be an indication that you’re missing out on some big wins.

They Do the Work

If you didn’t already know, sportsbook opening lines change based on the public money that comes in. Generally speaking, the public is uninformed on the specifics of each game and relies on what they think they know about each team or player. Don’t make this mistake.

Doing even a marginal amount of research on a particular matchup can make all the difference. Don’t just look at injury reports or stats from the past week, consider motivation, past matchups, and detailed analysis that can help you get a slight edge over the public.

NBA Bucks vs Raptors Play

One method that I’ve determined to be an effective way of handicapping a matchup is to look up two different “expert” opinions where each has a different conclusion.

For example, if the Bucks are playing the Raptors, I’d find one betting site where an expert explains why the Bucks are the right pick, then find a site where a different expert explains why the Raptors are the lock of the night.

Regardless of what your methodology is, just betting based on your “feel” is exactly what the sportsbooks are hoping you’ll do. Take the time and put in 20 minutes of research before making a play. It doesn’t guarantee a win, but at least you won’t be ignoring data that could potentially help you get an advantage over the uninformed public.


Winning money through sports betting is challenging, but it can be done. Remember, as much as you’re trying to beat the sportsbooks, you’re really trying to get a leg up on the other bettors.

Finally, it’s important to note that streaks, both good and bad, are inevitable. Proper money management should keep your head above water long enough to see the tide turn in your favor.

Above all, make sure you aren’t risking more than you can afford to lose.